Remote control: Calif. startup cancels Comcast service for frustrated subscribers

 The Comcast Center, Philadelphia (NewsWorks file photo)

The Comcast Center, Philadelphia (NewsWorks file photo)

An Oakland-based startup is aiming to make some money from Comcast customers looking to disconnect.

Many subscribers have found the process full of hassle, facing pushy customer service representatives trying to convince them that pulling the plug is not in their best interest.

Earlier this week, two Bay Area guys launched AirPaper, a website that cancels your Comcast service for you for $5. After you punch in your basic info, the site sends a letter to your local Comcast branch through an automated process.

Co-founder Eli Pollak says a simple mission drives AirPaper: making dealing with bureaucracy surprisingly pleasant.

“I don’t think Comcast, at its core, is an evil or a bad company,” Pollak said. “I just think they’ve chosen to construe their narrow, short-term interest, in terms of customer attention, in a way that’s bad for their customers.”

Earl St Sauver, the company’s other founder, had a grueling time attempting to cancel his Comcast service and started talking to Pollak. They knew it was far from an isolated experience: Customers recording their nightmare Comcast calls has become almost its own genre on YouTube, with videos such as “Listen to Comcast Phone Rep Torture and Verbally Abuse Loyal Customer!” and “Epic Failures Featuring: Comcast.”

Embedded in this kind of frustration, Pollak thought, is a demand and a real business opportunity.

“It’s emblematic of a process that isn’t broken because it needs to be, it’s broken because Comcast wants it to be,” Pollak said. “It’s such a great example of something that doesn’t need to be hard and painful but definitely is hard and painful.”

In just one week since the launch, tens of thousands have flocked to the cancellation service. This is just the beginning of Pollak’s plans to simplify life for exasperated consumers.

“We realize we touched a nerve here of consumer frustration and anger around companies making it more difficult and frustrating to deal with them then it needs to be.”

Next he hopes to add other services to AirPaper, such as automating DMV paperwork and visa application requests.

Comcast hasn’t reached out to him yet, but Pollak said he’d love to chat.

“I think it’s a real opportunity for Comcast,” he said. “To look at how they’ve chosen to structure their customer service and say, ‘Gosh, maybe we can do something differently.'”

A Comcast spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. 

This disclosure, Comcast owns NBC 10, a WHYY news partner.



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